side chair (from a set of 8)
side chair (from a set of 8)

side chair (from a set of 8)

Thomas Chippendale, Designer (British, 1718-1779)

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These two so-called "ribband back chairs" derive their name from the ribbon motifs incorporated into the structural and organic carving of the chair back. The design closely follows one of the most elaborate chairs illustrated in all three editions of The Director. Chippendale wrote that the chairs, "if I may speak without vanity, are the best I have ever seen (or perhaps have ever been made.)" - ("Eighteenth-Century Furniture Design," May 23, 2009—February 21, 2010, Indianapolis Museum of Art, Conant Galleries)

Indianapolis Museum of Art: Highlights of the Collection (2005)

This side chair, one of a pair in the IMA collection, is nearly an exact match of a design by Thomas Chippendale, the renowned English cabinetmaker. Chippendale was one of several craftsmen to make chairs of this type, but his designs were especially influential because he published them in his best-selling Gentleman and Cabinet-Maker's Director, one of the first pattern books to cover the entire range of household furniture. Because so many craftsmen relied on Chippendale's models, this beautifully executed chair was likely made by another London cabinetmaker, who drew on plate XVI of the first, 1754, edition or on plate XV of the third and most widely distributed edition, published in 1762. Only the most skilled carver could have translated so literally into three dimensions the intricacy of Chippendale's design.

Seats of this type were called ribband-back for their elaborate splats-the central vertical section of the chair back, which is carved in the form of an interlaced ribbon. Such designs exemplify the English version of Rococo, a fanciful style that originated in France and is characterized by sinuous curves, asymmetry, C- and S-shaped scrolls, and motifs derived from natural forms.

Upon the whole, I have here given no Design but what may be executed with Advantage by the Hands of a skillful Workman.
-The Gentleman and Cabinet-Maker's Director, 1762

Object Information

Thomas Chippendale (British, 1718-1779)
creation date
about 1755-1765
mahogany, oak, upholstery
39-1/2 x 25 x 21 in.
accession number
credit line
Gift of the Decorative Arts Society of the Indianapolis Museum of Art and Lilly Pavilion Discretionary Fund
Public Domain
Decorative Arts

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